Cursing Abroad: Portuguese Insults To Round Out Your Studies

Some might say swearing is just a natural extension of the Portuguese language.
April 29, 2020
Cursing Abroad: Portuguese Insults To Round Out Your Studies

People curse in every language, but not everyone gets the distinct honor of cursing in a language that embraces swearing with a healthy nonchalance. For example, people from Porto might consider it rude for you to point out that their swearing is rude. That’s not a guarantee that you can lob whatever Portuguese insults you like without offending anyone, of course. It’s more a that you shouldn’t deprive yourself of this colorful and vital aspect of your Portuguese language-learning journey.

Whether you decide to risk it in the real world with one of these comments or merely store them away in your bank of trivia, these spicy expressions will give you useful insight into the spirit of the Portuguese language. Here are some of our favorite Portuguese insults from both Portugal and Brazil. (Note: it’s possible that some of these expressions are universally used and understood, but some of them are more common in Europe or Latin America.)

Baixar a bola (Brazil) — If someone’s gassing themselves up and you want to explicitly take them down a peg or two, just tell them to “lower the ball.” This is a soccer metaphor which basically means “calm down and quit the high-kicking dramatics.”

Bosta (Brazil) — You can say that someone or something is “bullshit” in Portuguese too, except there’s less of an implication that the bullshit you’re calling out is an attempt to lie or deceive you about something. It is what it is, which is to say, it’s a pile of crap.

Burro de merda (Portugal) — The sentiment here is essentially calling someone a “dumb shit.” But it literally translates to “donkey of shit,” which is way better.

Cona da mãe street (Portugal) — This doesn’t just invoke someone else’s mother’s genitals. It invokes their mother’s genitals…street. Yeah, that’s right, “Your mother’s vagina street.”

Desenmerda-te (Portugal) — If you tell someone to “unshit themselves,” the implication is that they’ve already soiled themselves. But there’s also something empowering about telling someone to essentially “get their shit together” — it means you believe in their ability to do so.

Desgraça (Brazil) — To the average English speaker, calling someone a “disgrace” might not seem like that big of a deal. But we assure you, it’s a pretty big deal in Brazil. Especially for older, religious Brazilians.

És um Sócrates. (Portugal) — “You’re a Sócrates.” (Sócrates the disgraced politician, not the Greek philosopher.) You don’t even have to resort to the so-called “naughty words” — just call someone a [insert name of scandal-ridden politician here].

Ir com os porcos Unhappy with someone? Tell them to “go with the pigs” (to the slaughterhouse, essentially). It’s a slightly more euphemistic version of “please die.”

Mala (Brazil) — If you’re familiar with Spanish or Italian, you might think this word means “bad,” but you’re wrong. It actually just means “suitcase,” and it’s a mildly offensive thing to call someone who you think is annoying.

Nem que você fosse a última pessoa da Terra. “Not even if you were the last person on Earth.” Ouch.

Pirralha This is among the more newsworthy-as-of-late Portuguese insults. When Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called climate activist Greta Thunberg a pirralha at a press conference (meaning “brat” or “pest”), she added the honorific to her Twitter bio.

Rego do cu “Asshole” is a pretty universal expression, but “ass crack”? Now that’s different.

Vai pentear macacos Need someone to get lost? Tell them to “go comb monkeys.” This doesn’t sound like a terrible fate to resign someone to, but it makes more sense when you consider that this phrase originated way back in a historical time when this was considered a pretty menial task.

Vai pró caralho When “go away” doesn’t cut it, there’s always “go to the dick.”

Need more Portuguese lessons before you can expertly pull these off?
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Author Headshot
Steph Koyfman
Steph is a writer, lindy hopper, and astrologer. She’s also a language enthusiast who grew up bilingual and had an early love affair with books. She has mostly proved herself as a New Yorker, and she can introduce herself in Swedish thanks to Babbel. She also speaks Russian and Spanish, but she’s a little rusty on those fronts.
Steph is a writer, lindy hopper, and astrologer. She’s also a language enthusiast who grew up bilingual and had an early love affair with books. She has mostly proved herself as a New Yorker, and she can introduce herself in Swedish thanks to Babbel. She also speaks Russian and Spanish, but she’s a little rusty on those fronts.

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